This month, my team from the Mansfield Trail Runners and I ran the Fred Brown Lake Winnipesaukee Relay. It was a wonderful race and we had a great time. In our prep for the race, we noticed that there wasn’t much information online about the legs and the race itself. As a public service to the running community, I asked each of our runners to write a short recap of their experience of their legs. In this first part, we’ll cover Legs 1-3 (a recap of Leg 4 is on the way). You’ll see a theme – my team didn’t do much research and had a great time. Sounds like runners to me.
Leg 1 – Laura
I did not do any research prior to the relay and only knew that I was running the first leg and that it was 10.7 miles. The leg started with a long downhill which I took pretty fast because I’m better at downhills than uphills and I figured this was a good opportunity to put some time in the bank. My quads did not thank me later ;-). Next, as best I can recall, came rolling hills. The temperature was not very hot but it was muggy and I rapidly began to overheat. I determined that I must lose the shirt and stopped at the first aide station, unpinned my number, moved it to my shorts and took off the shirt. Now I was cooler, but carrying the shirt in addition to the baton. Within a mile I found some kind strangers who would be at the finish and were willing to take the shirt off my hands. Thank you kind strangers! There was more help from kind strangers in the hydration department over the course of the leg. The two water stops available were not enough and I failed to carry water with me so I was grateful. If I do this leg again I will bring a hand bottle. Towards the middle of the leg I fell in with a small pack and we worked together for several miles. This pack provided me with valuable intel on how far we had gone, how far we had to go and what I was in for. I learned that the last 3 miles was mostly uphill! I really had not planned or conserved for this hill, but managed to schlog up it anyway, as one always inevitably does in these situations. Things got very uncomfortable towards the end of the leg, kind of like the way the last few miles of a marathon feels, probably because I have not been running much and am not in good running shape. Boy was I happy to see my team at the transition area when it finally appeared! Well that’s my report. My advice: Prepare for lots of downhill, lots of uphill, bring extra water and take off your shirt while you still can!
Leg 2 – Marc
I didn’t do any homework on the legs and simply asked for the longest, as I enjoy long distance runs. Consequently, I was assigned leg two–and didn’t really know much about it other than it was purported to be mostly downhill.
It started with a long, gradual climb. Just about the time I had my fill of climbing, the downhill began–and the leg lived up to its reputation: significant downhill. In fact, this leg is not for a person with knee issues or someone who doesn’t like to run downhill. I found myself widening my stride and picking up a great deal of speed. This probably contributed to me running faster than I should have in the first half of my leg. I became concerned about positive splits once the course transitioned into rolling hills.
This leg does go onto secondary roads and along the water for a distance, which is quaint and pleasurable to view; however, if you’re anything like me, you don’t really do much sight-seeing while racing.
By the time I reached the second water station, there was a little more than 4 miles remaining and I was definitely feeling the effects of the first third of the course. The last mile or so flattens out and–if you have any reserves–you can step it up and come in strong for a finish. Overall, the leg was enjoyable and probably one that you want to assign to the fastest runner in your group.
Leg 3 – Rachel (Me!)
One of my teammates had quite possibly the best description of leg three – it was a survival exercise. When my leg started, it was just starting to get sunny. It was about 85 degrees and humid. My leg began with Bay Hill Road, billed at the steepest hill on a “hilly course”. They weren’t kidding. There’s a big warning sign at the bottom of Bay Hill notifying unsuspecting motorists (and runners) that the hill has a 20% grade. It lasts for just over a half mile. At 20% grade. Everyone had been warning me about Bay Hill and I heard several reports that it “evened out” after Bay Hill. So, motivated by the idea that if I could get over this one big hill quickly that I could have a nice, flat run, I ran up Bay Hill. And turned the corner to find a second, huge hill. This one a mere 12% grade over a half mile. I was just over a mile in and had climbed over 500 feet. The sun was shining, it was about 90 degrees and humid, and I was so, so hot. I had water with me, but it wasn’t enough. I refilled my bottle at the first water stop.
I came across a friend of a friend at mile 3. I didn’t know him. I shoved a pile of sweaty clothes at him, took off my shirt, shoved my number in my shorts, and went on my way. I was sure that the stories of the crazy, shirtless lady would be circulating the exchange by the time I made it. By the fourth hill I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to walk. I was hot, miserable, and exhausted and I had 4 miles to go. The hills kept coming. There really was no break and, given that I was running on Route 28, there was also no shade. There wasn’t so much as a tall weed to give me any relief from the sun. Heat ripples were coming off the pavement. I walked up a few hills because I was so hot that I was dizzy. A few people passed me and I saw them fade into the distance. My team appeared like a mirage around mile 4. Some nice strangers gave me water at some point. It was cold and I drank it immediately. Time passed slowly. By mile 6 I was demoralized. I had been walking some, knew I was going to go over my projected time, and there was no end in sight. I forged on, knowing my team was counting on me. Later, our hosts would tell me they don’t even like to drive on Route 28.
At mile 7.5 the course turns and heads into the city. I was so grateful to be off route 28. Exhausted, I continued to the exchange at a school. When I finished, the only thing I could say to my teammate was “take off your shirt while you still can”. Marc asked me if I was ok. I was pretty sure I wasn’t. I was dangerously hot, despite walking and coming in nearly 10 minutes over my projected time (a minute per mile slower than I had hoped). The moral of the story – give Leg 3 to your teammate who can best tolerate heat and hills, or who is slightly sadistic. It wasn’t the leg for me, a terrible hot weather runner and not really a lover of so many hills. It was punishing and I won’t be rushing to repeat it. Next year I’ll try a different leg and our sadistic friend, Jack, will take mine. I won’t be sad to say goodbye to Leg 3.